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September 2001 BBRSC Newsletter
PROGRAMThe fall program series begins at 7 p.m. on September 18th in Room 309, Lawrence Hall, Sul Ross State University with a presentation by Mr. Lou Good of Big Bend National Park. He is the Management Assistant whose duties are park planning, concessions management, and performance management. The park is currently working on three major planning efforts: a new General Management Plan for the park, a River Management Plan for the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, and a Business Plan for both. Mr. Good reports the current concessions contract will expire in September of next year and he will also update us on what the new contract will contain in terms of commercial services in the park for the future. Come join us, bring guests, to hear Mr. Good explain the purpose and need for each of the plans, their current status, the next steps for each as well as answer question from the audience.
Mr. Good has worked at Big Bend NP since April 1998, having transferred here from Hawaii Volcanos National Park in Hawaii. He was born and raised in national parks, primarily Yellowstone and Yosemite, as his father was also a park ranger. Before Hawaii, he worked at Bryce Canyon, Utah. Good has been with the National Park Service 10 years.
Upcoming programs: The BBRSC will not hold its own program in October, but will urge its members to attend a meeting on BRAVO (study on air pollution in Big Bend National Park) sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, October 18th at 7 p.m. at the University Center, Conference Room A (same as the April 2000 meeting). We expect that we will learn what the BRAVO data is revealing. EPA plans to simplify the technical data and allow generous time for questions and answers. Please put this important meeting on your calendar.
TESTIFYING IN WASHINGTON D. C.I have just returned from Washington D. C. where Big Bend area residents John Mac Carpenter of Ft. Stockton, Mike Davidson, owner of Far Flung Adventures and chair of the Brewster County Tourism Council, and I were part of the over ninety people who testified before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in support of strong regional haze rules. You may recall that Superintendent Frank Deckert of Big Bend National Park provided us with information on those proposed rules last April.
by Don Dowdey, Chair, Big Bend Regional Sierra Club
In addition, Dr. Matthew Shetrone, staff astronomer at McDonald Observatory submitted written testimony, and Fran Sage, BBRSC Conservation Chair (as well as Shetrone) participated by phone in a press conference August 21st. Arrangements for environmental groups to testify were made by Clear the Air, a joint project of three leading clean air groups: the Clean Air Task Force, National Environmental Trust and the United States PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund. State arrangements were made by Karen Hadden, staff of SEED (Sustainable Energy and Economic Development) in Austin.
What are under consideration are the BART Guidelines. BART is the acronym for Best Available Retrofit Technology, the technology to be used to reduce pollution from existing industrial plants. The BART Guidelines Rule provides states with minimum requirements for power plants and twenty-five other sources of pollution, including smelters and petroleum refineries, which cause or contribute to the haze that blankets 156 Class I Areas -- national parks, wilderness areas, national wildlife refuges -- across the country. The definition of BART-eligible plants is complicated and technical, but as a rule of thumb any Texas grandfathered power plant, or other source of similar age, is probably included. The EPA has now proposed a twenty-eight-page rule setting these standards, and our testimony in Washington was in support of the strongest possible interpretation of it. The rule was published in the July 20, 2001 Federal Register, and is online at: http://www.epa.gov/EPA-AIR/2001/July/Day-20/a18094.htm.
As proposed, the rule requires that reductions of sulfates be at least 90-95%, and that NOx (NO nitric acid + NO2 nitrogen dioxide) be reduced by 90%. Sulfates are the primary pollutant in Big Bend. This level of reduction is obtainable with the Best Available Retrofit Technology, but industry is expected to argue for a smaller, less expensive standard. Also, the proposed rule would apply to all 50 states, with a presumption that any BART eligible plants are most likely contributing to pollution in a Class I area. In Texas the Class I areas are Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe National Park.
Because the initial BART program (coming from the 1977 amendments to the Clean Air Act) had a relatively high burden of proof to identify culpable sources to be applied by the EPA, the guidelines were rarely applied. Now the EPA is proposing the second BART program, "regional haze BART." Representatives of the petroleum industry argue against that interpretation, and in favor of requiring specific proof that an individual plant is a source before requiring it to be cleaned up. As we know, years of studies in Texas have failed to positively identify even one source of Big Bend's pollution. While that may change when the final results of the BRAVO study are announced next year, even that expensive study covered only a few BART-eligible sites and took years to complete.
John Mac Carpenter, a Ft. Stockton botanist, spoke about the damages of air pollution upon native plants and how their loss contributes to loss of soil. He also spoke of the beauty of the Big Bend region, the now diminished "sparkle" in the air, and the spiritual importance of the area.
Mike Davidson, owner of Far Flung Adventures, told of being brought up to believe that National Parks were part of his birthright as an American citizen, and how pollution contributes to loss of tourist dollars.
Matthew Shetrone, McDonald Observatory astronomer, explained how pollution makes it more costly and more time-consuming to do astronomical research, much of which is funded by the federal government. In addition he said some research simply can't be done with the haze.
In my testimony I emphasized four points:
1) Visibility loss in Big Bend is real and apparent.
2) The isolation of Big Bend from sources of pollution requires the national approach this rule provides. We hope to see diplomatic efforts from the Bush administration to work with Mexico on cleaning up Mexican sources of pollution.
3) Reductions must be mandatory, not voluntary. When I said that I hoped the mandatory requirements in this rule indicated that Pres. Bush realized that his voluntary approach had failed in Texas, the EPA panel all smiled broadly.
4) This issue is important to many people in the Trans-Pecos, as indicated by turnout at public meetings, etc.
Harold Hayes, an elderly gentleman from Greenville, TN, testified that what changed him from apathy to activism on this issue was camping in the Basin on a cloudless night, and not being able to see any stars.
Meetings with Senatorial Staff and Mexican Embassy Staff
John Mac Carpenter and I visited with Max Leichman of Phil Gramm's office and David Brooks of Senator Jeff Bingaman's office (New Mexico). Along with Mike Davidson and Karen Hadden, we also met with Amy Flynn of Kay Bailey Hutchison's office. The contact with Sen. Bingaman was especially useful, as he is the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which is responsible for National Parks. They don't, however, usually follow EPA rules closely, and were unaware of the BART hearings. He understood, however, that this rule is an intersection between the two, and promised to begin following it.
John Mac Carpenter was able to meet with representatives of the Mexican Embassy and outlined his concerns on the pollution coming from Mexico. He hopes to continue the contacts.
We had requested a meeting with the White House, but received no response.
Written comments on the proposed rule will be taken through Sept. 16. They should be addressed to: Air and Radiation Docket and Information Center (6102), Attn.: Docket No. A-2000-28, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20460
You can also send an online fax to EPA Administrator Christine Whitman from the website http://www.seedcoalition.org . You can use its suggested wording, or prepare your own.
NEW STATEWIDE GROUP FORMING ON RADIOACTIVE WASTEDon Dowdey, Susan Curry, Gary Oliver, and Fran and Jim Sage, BBRSC members, attended a planning meeting on radioactive waste at Balmorhea State Park, July 15th. In all, fifteen people attended including people from Amarillo, Plainview, Monahans, Ft. Stockton, Pecos, and Austin. Meetings have been held in several other areas of the state. Plans are being made to form a statewide network, and prepare materials. This will be a team effort. If you are interested in working on this effort, contact Fran Sage at (915) 364-2362 (a local call from Alpine).
PROVISIONS OF THE ENERGY BILLThe central provisions of the House passed energy bill are oil and gas exploration and drilling. Although the bulk of the public lands in the west and 95 % of lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the Rocky Mountain West are available to the oil and gas companies for leasing, the Administration plan would target the few remaining wild areas of the west and also the offshore coastal waters. The bill would allow exploration and drilling in a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the most pristine of the pristine public lands, and many national monuments. The coastal waters have been protected for several decades but now the Administration's energy plan would undo the ban for some of the coastal areas. Furthermore those forests that have been untouched and roadless would now become vulnerable.
In addition to the oil and gas industries, the nuclear power industry would be revitalized and expanded. In the words of the national Sierra Club, ". . . there is no safe way to store the dangerous radioactive waste from existing nuclear plants, and nuclear energy could only be expanded with huge federal subsidies." Unfortunately the renewable energy sources get short shift in the bill. The Boston Globe editorializes that the bill includes "$27.6 billion in subsidies to the oil, coal, nuclear, and auto industries, while only $5 billion is earmarked for renewable energy or conservation." The House passed bill proposes 1300 new power plants and "38,000 miles of gas pipelines, and 55,000 miles of new transmission line," available if necessary through eminent domain. How the costs will be paid is not made clear. Since there is to be no room in the budget for new spending, it is hard to see how the Medicare and Social Security funds can be left alone.
The environment is the big loser in the bill. Missing is serious raising of mileage standards for the SUVs and minivans. Also missing are serious conservation measures and any other attempt to increase efficiency and decrease consumption. The Sierra Club reports that a Department of Energy study shows that "we can avoid the need for approximately 610 of the new power plants with energy-efficiency measures and avoid another 180 plants by using renewable energy." Furthermore, "we could meet remaining demand by replacing old, dirty coal-fired power plants with new, cleaner, high-efficiency natural gas plants." While the plan calls for research in "clean" coal technology, that technology would not address carbon dioxide emissions, a source of global warming.
The bill is 510 pages in length with numerous provisions. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.
SENATE ACTIONThe energy bill should be discussed in the Senate this month. We hope that the most noxious features of the bill can be changed. We expect much coverage of the drilling issue, especially in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We urge you to write your senators asking them to support eliminating the drilling upon the public lands, especially the wildlife refuge, as well as eliminating other objectionable features such as expanding nuclear power plants. Following are the addresses: The mailing addresses for both are United States Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510..Senator Phil Gramm may be reached at (202) 224-2934, FAX (202) 228-2856 [there is no e-mail address for Sen. Gramm] and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison may be reached at (202) 224-5922, FAX (202) 224-0776, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
SURVEYSWhile a clear message has come back so far from members on wanting the BBRSC to develop a position on Entrada al Pacifico (the trade route from the Pacific coast of Mexico through Presidio, Marfa, Alpine, Ft. Stockton, and on to Midland and other points north, the number of returns is rather low. For those who have not returned the survey included with our last newsletter, please drop me a line letting me know if you want BBRSC to develop a position and whether you have time to work with a committee to develop the position. A number of people have indicated a willingness to work on such a committee. I hope you will be in touch whether you have time or inclination to work on a policy. Please drop me, Fran Sage, a note at P. O. Box 564, Alpine, Texas 79831 or via e-mail to email@example.com.
MEMBER PROFILEThis month we feature Luc and Barbara Novovitch, members in Marathon. The Novovitches came to Marathon about three years ago, and have already become an integral part of the town. They own Sotol Gallery, exhibiting the fine arts photography of Luc. Barbara started the Marathon Gazette earlier this year, a 12-16 page monthly tabloid. Thinking about their past and joint histories it is hard to understand how they settled on Marathon, Texas, as their home, except that they were attracted to the beauty of the Big Bend as so many of us are. Luc explained that he was researching a project entitled "Vanishing Railroads" in the Texas Panhandle when he and Barbara decided to explore the Big Bend. He was immediately seduced by the desert and mountain landscape and proposed to move there and open a gallery. (The completed work will be shown at the Murfreesboro Art Center near Nashville in September-October.)
But both of them have an international past. Luc was born in Casablanca, Morocco, son of French parents, his father an officer in the French Foreign Legion. He then lived in Switzerland and was schooled there and in France. When he decided to pursue law at the University of Lyons, he took up photography to help pay for his studies. Photography became his life's work, both as a professional photojournalist and a fine arts photographer. He has traveled in Africa, Europe and Asia, and worked for Agence France-Presse, Reuters in Paris, moving to the United States in 1989 working for Gamma and the Associated Press in the United States. Luc became an U. S. citizen in December 2000.
Barbara came to Marathon by an equally circuitous route. She was born in Tennessee, educated at Tennessee Polytechnic University, and was a reporter, working for dailies in Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia before moving to Germany where she joined Newsweek. Then the Washington Post beckoned her to the nation's capital. After serving as the founding editor of Woman's World magazine, she too joined Reuters and was stationed in Hong Kong, London, New York and back to D. C. She met Luc in Paris in the mid-eighties. Barbara still does some free lance work for Reuters out of Marathon, writing features on the area. But the paper is her current challenge, and she hopes to make the Gazette a glue for the community, bringing Anglo and Hispanic residents together.
The Novovitches invite members and residents to visit the Sotol Gallery at Highway 90, about a block east of the Gage Hotel.
CALENDAR SALESGinny Campbell, treasurer, will be in charge of calendar sales this year. She expects calendars to be available at our September 18th meeting. Currently she is arranging for people to call designated members in the various cities in our region to request calendars. More about that later. There will be two calendars available this year: the wall calendar for $11.95 and the engagement calendar for $12.95. Either or both will make handsome gifts for Christmas as well as items for personal use and enjoyment. Calendar sales are one of several ways for the BBRSC to raise money. Sixty percent of the money from calendar sales remains with us. Please consider buying or ordering. You may reach Ginny directly by calling (915) 386-4526, or sending her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or dropping her a note at P. O. Box 474, Marathon, Texas 79842.
CONTRIBUTIONSThanks to Glen Perry, Tom Reidy, Tom Douglas, and members at the potluck for donations totaling $185 as well as pledges totally $95. That brings the total for the year to $1557.
NOMINATIONSThe Nominating Committee, Brenda Bell (915) 426-2498, e-mail email@example.com , or P. O Box 2101, Ft. Davis, TX 79734, Marilyn Brady (915) 837-3210, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, 50 Sunny Glenn, Alpine, TX 79830, and Fran Sage (915) 364-2362 [a local call from Alpine], e-mail email@example.com , P. O. Box 564, Alpine, TX 79831 invite nominations for the Executive Committee election this fall. There will be two openings as we complete the size reduction from 8 to 5 members. Fran Sage, Susan Curry, John Bell, and Jim Walker's terms all expire at the end of the year. Continuing members are Ginny Campbell, Don Dowdey, and Marilyn Brady. (Fran Sage is eligible to serve on the Nominating Committee as she does not plan to stand for re-election.) We would especially welcome names from all areas, not just Alpine. In addition petitions may be submitted for member candidates to be included on the ballot. The petition needs 15 members' signatures and consent of the proposed nominee. The nominating committee report should be in by mid-October and any petitions should be submitted near the end of October. Ballots will go out with the November newsletter. Election results will be due near the middle of December. The new Executive Committee will take office in January 2002. Firm dates will be established soon by the Executive Committee. After the ballot is complete, the Executive Committee will appoint an election committee.
Lone Star Chapter
Sierra Celebration 2001
Experiencing our Wide Open Spaces
by Jennifer Walker
Sierra Celebration is the Lone Star Chapters annual celebration of the past years victories. This is our chance to hike, visit and sit around the campfire with other club members and volunteers. This year's Sierra Celebration will take place the weekend of October 19th at beautiful MO-Ranch in Hunt, Texas. Mo-Ranch is located west of Kerrville. This is beautiful hill country on the North Fork of the Guadalupe River. What more can you say!
Lodging: You can stay in the barn or camp out. The Moran Barn has bedrooms and bunkrooms with adjoining bathrooms, a large living area and kitchen. Rates for the barn are $59 per person (includes both nights). Campsites are $21 per night per site with a maximum of 8 people per site. Campsites have tent pads, picnic tables, grills, and running water.
Food: We will have a kitchen available in our quarters and will prepare breakfast, sack lunches, and dinner on a group effort and contribution/ prearranged basis. The cost for this will be $18/weekend. The meals will be vegetarian; iced tea and coffee will be served. Deborah and David will be spearheading this effort. Meals are also available at the dining hall with 2-week notice. Prices are 5,7, and 9 dollars for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Indicate which option you would like to go with on the registration form below.
Outings: On Saturday, October 20, we will be visiting the Kerr Wildlife Management Area. The staff biologist there will take us on a tour of the area. This outing will start at lunch and last into the afternoon. On Sunday, October 21, we will take day hikes in Lost Maples State Park. There are 475 acres on the ranch so there will be ample space for impromptu walks and hikes. Swimming, canoeing (free), and horseback riding ($15/half hour and $25/hour) on "secluded trails with spectacular views" are also available.
Sierra Celebration 2001 Registration Form
For more information, contact the Lone Star Chapter Office at 512/477-1729
Registration Deadline: October 12
City State Zip
Please make checks payable to:
Sierra Club, Lone Star Chapter
Mail Payment and Registration Form to:
P.O. Box 1931, Austin, TX 78767
Exp. Date: Amount:
The Barn is $59 / weekend (Friday-Sunday)
# people attending X $59 = $________
Campsites are $21 / night
# campsites X $21/night = $________
Communal meals are $18 / weekend
# people attending X $18 = $________
Ranch Dining Room, meals are $5, 7, 9 for breakfast lunch and dinner respectively.
*Ranch meals require 2-week adv. notice
Ranch meal cost (please specify meals purchasing) $________
TOTAL COST $_________
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